Namasté, Maximum City

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Taj Hotel, (Colaba) Mumbai: Site of the Nov. terrorist attacks, located 2 blocks from my hostel.  Notice the ground level, boarded-up and closed to visitors.

My visit to Ahmedabad ended with a BV Doshi lecture at the school of architecture and a last minute train ticket to Mumbai.  In the span of a single day, I learned a thing or two on the art of travel.  Booking tickets in advance is critical, people are generally helpful toward a single female traveler with a heavy bag,  and in Mumbai, a fine for riding in the first-class car with a second-class ticket will cost about $6 – no relief for foreigners!  ( Also…if you feel the need to fake a Canadian nationality, make sure you are more familiar with Canada’s geography than the person you are trying to fool.)

Enter Mumbai, ‘Maximum City’.  India is filled with severe contrasts, intense dualities.  I see so much and am unable to capture even half of what I intend.  It is all moving so incredibly fast.

If I error in travel planning here, it seems forgivable for the simple economic fact that everything is a fraction of the price of its value in US dollars.  One can honestly get by on a ticket out here…and little more.  I have a crazy spreadsheet of my fluxuating travel budget and a new outlook on donating to the babies with babies I am encountering out here.

So, I’ve barely tasted Mumbai….but I hear it outside calling, and I smell it, and feel it.  I’m at KRVIA: Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture and Environmental Design to speak with some professors about their work in the city and their interests in public space.  I’ve always been intrigued by the urban interests the Indian architecture students bring to the states, their curriculum over here always seemed to be associated with larger-scale issues.  My plan for this coming week is to be able to do some real testing again.  The newest cities here are the special economic zones that are springing up around the suburbs.  So, I’m interested in seeing Amby Valley, Pune, and Magarpatta (a city built by farmers cum developers circa 2000).  And, my original plan to check out Navi Mumbai (designed by Indian architect Charles Correa) is still on the agenda, although, this city might prove a better historical precedent.

These sentiments remain on my mind:

‘There are no traditions for creating public space in India.  Latin American models might make more sense here.” – Bimal Patel, Architect, Ahmedabad

“Indians love water.”  – The Nanocity Studio used this phrase often when we were planning a new city in Northern India.  Patel and Sachin helped to articulate the perpetual role water plays in India – from cleansing the body and the home regularly in the heat, to religious ceremonies with a physical connection to waterbanks and waterbeds, to the very visible laundry washing rituals, to the season of the monsoon that occurs from June through September.

“The virtue of an indian habitat lies in its ability to absorb changing perceptions and functions.” – BV Doshi, CEPT Lecture, March 1, 2009 (He’s 82!)


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